Shwanda chronicles the daily lives of a remarried couple who took a second chance on love and successfully blended five kids, four cats, three dogs, two fish and a bird, offering humor and inspiration to anyone in or about to enter into a blended...

Beth is a winner of Top 25 Moms with Blended Families - 2012

What aspect of being in a blended family has surprised you?

I was surprised by how much harder it was than being a single mother and how much I missed, even longed for, being a single mom again with just my two girls. When I married a man with three children it was a lot more work than I bargained for. There was a lot of negotiation, consensus building and conflict resolution involved that I didn’t have to deal with before as a single parent with just two children who got along with each other.

What's a good tip for preventing sibling rivalry?

Be as fair as you possibly can with all of your children with regard to the amount of time and money you spend for each child. If possible, offer to spend time alone with each child so he/she feels special and knows that their needs are being met to the best of your ability.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to moms who are about to become part of a blended family?

Don’t expect to bond with your step kids right away and don’t jump right in as “the fixer” of all their problems. Instead, consider yourself a caring advocate for them similar to a favorite “auntie” who’s willing to listen to them and look out for their best interests. Leave the parenting and discipline up to their biological parents. Only step in when necessary and don’t offer unsolicited parenting advice that could be perceived unfavorably as interference.